Ibrahim: Addressing plight of internally displaced persons
INTERNALLY Displaced Persons (IDP) denotes persons or group of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violation of human rights, natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised state border.
The vulnerabilities of the (IDP) girl child tend be submerged in wider issues of gender inequality and programmes of action for women, and require special focus. Donors and technical assistance agencies should seek out and support specific initiatives for the protection of the girl child. Donors should include at least one programme of action to empower the girl child within their programme of assistance.
Access to education
Every child has the right to an education. Human Rights of refugee/IDP (HRO) should note whether the educational needs of children in the camps are being met. Free compulsory primary education should be available to all girl children in the camps. Provision should be made for the education needs of older children, and particularly adolescents, including secondary and vocational education. As far as possible, all education services should allow children to follow a curriculum identical to that which other children in their home country or region are following, so that reintegration into a normal education system upon their return will be without problems. To the greatest extent possible, educational services should be organized and administered by members of the refugee/IDP community.
Make formal education accessible and relevant
HROs should examine how the security of persons in the camp is being safeguarded. This issue is especially relevant for refugee/IDP women and girls who may be subjected to violence – including sexual violence – and whose security should be a particular concern of HROs. See United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sexual Violence against Refugees, Guidelines on Prevention and Response (1995).
Some techniques include careful consultation with women at risk; better lighting or night patrolling in dangerous areas; careful relocation of water, toilets, refuse and other facilities; measures to diminish risks to women while they obtain food, firewood and similar commodities; relocation of sleeping facilities (particularly for women on their own or female heads of households); installation of fences or other protective barriers.
Another important practice affecting the right of a girl child relates to her entitlement to nutritious food and decent clothing. For the pregnant women, mother’s nutritional status during pregnancy is important for both the baby’s development and protection against maternal mortality.
Where a camp is within a conflict zone, refugees and IDPs may be vulnerable to attack either within the camp or when outside in search of food or water.
Promotion of non-violence as a cultural value using existing community institutions, structures and linkages, Meaningful consultation with children and young people, particularly girl children, to plan and implement strategies to address violence and discrimination against the girl child.
The manner in which the camp was established: whether, for example, the camp was created according to a detailed and pre-prepared plan of action; or whether the camp formed “spontaneously” with the arrival of an increasing number, of IDPs. A planned camp will usually be better equipped to provide for the varying assistance needs of people in displacement.
Improve law enforcement
In addition to reviewing and updating laws, there is a need to improve law enforcement in the area of violence against the girl child to ensure more effective practices. Appropriate measures might include:
• Re-education of police and magistrates on the vulnerabilities of girl children and their obligations to provide protection for girls and women.
• Capacity building in the justice system on the needs and rights of victims, particularly girl children who have suffered violence, exploitation and abuse. For example the current in-security in the country where more than five hundred women have been captured by the insurgents in some parts of the country; even though the consequences for the girl may be as severe as sexual penetration.
• Gender-sensitive and child sensitive court proceedings.
•Identification and appointment of police and justice personnel to specialize in cases of sexual abuse, assault and rape.
• Establishment of police sexual assault and family violence units, with links to a specialized hospital unit.
• Improvement of forensic expertise of police and prosecutors, and procedures for investigation, gathering and securing evidence regarding sexual abuse, assault and rape.
• Training of more women for positions in the judiciary and police.
The task of rebuilding homes and livelihoods is daunting for those IDPs who decide to return to their areas of origin. According to Global IDP Project (2005), homes and infrastructure have often been systematically destroyed and looted during – and sometimes after- outbreaks of communal violence, in order to deter returning. This is evident in Nigeria situation. For instance, Human Rights Watch reported that thousands of residents of Baga, Monguno, and other villages in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa states, Northeastern Nigeria, remained displaced for fear of further clashes breaking out between radical Islamist group (Boko Haram) and troops from the Nigeria-Niger-Chad Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF). An estimated 2,275 homes were destroyed in fires, and a further 125 severely damaged.
Develop policies and strategies
Governments and NGOs need to develop policies and strategies to address the vulnerability of girl child, with emphasis on this. There is need for more substantive policy-oriented research on gender socialization of children in camps of the country to better understand how gender identities are formed from early childhood onward. Policy development on gender and family violence by the government underline the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships (Including Government, Civil Society; International Organizations and the Private Sector) in making progress in combating violence against girls.
In April 2014, the abduction of more than 200 young girls from a school in Chibok made Boko Haram international headline news. Since then, attacks have continued and more women and girls have been kidnapped, including eight in May and more than 60 in June. Beyond the Boko Haram attacks that sow fear and terror amongst the local population, girls’ education is already facing many social and economic constraints in northern Nigeria, resulting in low attendance and high dropout rates. According to a 2013 study for the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, 37% of girls are out of school in the northeast and ‘gender disparities are almost exclusively concentrated in the rural North.’ In the face of raging poverty, parents often take girls out of school to work, preferring to educate their sons. Early (child) marriage and pregnancy are also common, and inadequate hard and soft infrastructure (including teacher qualifications) further exacerbate the problem. Overall, the number of children out of school in north-eastern Nigeria is 30 times higher than in the country’s south-east. With the frequent attacks on schools by Boko Haram and this case of abduction of female pupils, there are rising fears of further deterioration of the already dire state of girls’ education in the region.
The domestic response to the abductions and the wider Boko Haram threat has been very strong. The girls’ parents and members of the public took to the streets of Abuja, calling on the government to step up its efforts to rescue the girls. The domestic and international media attention pushed the government to show results, but instead of facilitating a solution, it added to the perception that neither the government nor the military were able to handle the situation properly and efficiently. Governments should improve the collection of disaggregated and reliable data in order to enhance the effectiveness of their actions to promote the abandonment of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), and UN, through its agencies should support governments in their efforts to do so.
• Ibrahim is of the Department of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri
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